- 13 Mar 2021
With 40 wins to her name since the start of 2020 – and four finals in that same span after today’s victory over Elise Mertens in Dubai – Garbiñe Muguruza has once again established herself as one of the premier players in women’s tennis. Never mind the ranking (16, really?), or the fact that she’s lost her last three finals; the 27-year-old Spaniard could very well be at the beginning of another sweet spot of her career, something that she simply referred to as “A good moment in my career” today after she defeated Mertens to reach the Dubai final.
— Garbiñe Muguruza (@GarbiMuguruza) March 12, 2021
Ranking? It’s a number, after all
Don’t get hung up with the 16 hanging next to Muguruza’s name as she prepares to face Barbora Krejcikova in Saturday’s final in Dubai – it’s not indicative of the type of tennis the two-time major champion is playing these days. Even though the former world No 1 doesn’t hold a top 10 ranking at the moment, she’s playing like a top 5 player and she wants her opponents to be aware of this fact as well.
“I want to feel like my opponents, every time they play against me, they think ‘Oh man, I play Muguruza, doesn’t matter if she’s No 20, No 5 or No 2.’”
Since the beginning of 2020, Muguruza has stressed the importance of not worrying about factors beyond her control. The ranking, to her, isn’t an indication of how strong her game is or how likely she is to win another Grand Slam. What matters to her is the work she is doing and the competitive fire that she possesses. These days, Muguruza burns to step into the arena and give herself chances to win matches against the tour’s top players.
From balance, comes consistency
Through hard work, determination and growth Muguruza has managed to add a layer of consistency to her game that makes her a more reliable talent than she was, even in her heyday when she claimed a pair of Grand Slam titles across 2016 and 2017.
The jaw-dropping game was always there. The booming groundstrokes, the piercing accuracy and the fire, but often, since that period, she couldn’t produce the level week-in and week-out on tour. It appears that Muguruza has finally found the key to unlock her consistency.
“It’s one of the hardest things to find, some sort of balance, some sort of feeling more stable on the court, level-wise as well and bringing every day a good level of tennis and being there every round, I feel like that’s something very hard to achieve and it takes some time, it’s a journey for everybody, I feel like some people they got it early in their career, some others a little bit later, but I feel like it’s a combination of experience and knowing yourself a little bit more,” she said.
It was never about the game, says Muguruza, it was about the mentality.
“I don’t think it was the game, I feel like I always had a lot in my hands, even when I was 20, 21, I was already winning big tournaments. I feel like it was more mental to put that together, to put the level and the mentality in the right moment, I feel like those two sometimes don’t go together. You can have a lot of talent but you don’t know what to do with it. There are days where it is the opposite, but I feel like now I know how to put a little bit of each [into my game] more than before.”
Motivation is the key
More than anything Muguruza says it is her desire to embrace the competition, and the hunger to keep pushing, that drives her forward. Anyone that watches her play these days can tell she has turned a corner and discovered a new level of maturity. It shows in her attitude, and the positive energy she is putting into her matches.
The Spaniard is quick to point out the fact that her team, lead by Conchita Martinez, who has been her head coach since the end of 2019, has played a pivotal role, both in her mentality and her physical well-being. It’s no secret that she had a tumultuous relationship with former coach Sam Sumyk, prior to linking up with Martinez, but all that is in the past now. Muguruza now has a fresh perspective and she feels she is no longer tied down by the pressures that many young players on tour might be facing.
She’s been No 1. She’s won majors. There’s a confidence that comes with that. Couple that with a fresh, positive perspective and anything is possible.
“I feel extremely motivated because I’ve been working hard, I feel good, I have a good team around me, I feel this is a good moment in my career, also with my age, my knowledge, the things that I have to achieve,” she said.
“I don’t think that I have to prove any more that I can win a Grand Slam, that I can be a number one, this is over, now is the time to just forget all of those things that when you are young you think: ‘When am I going to win a Grand Slam? When am I going to be No.2 or No.1 in the world?’ All of those things are gone already. Of course, I want to be in those situations again, but this is not pressure anymore. I’ve done it and I want to do it again, so that’s how I feel right now.”